Freelancing 101 Q&A: I Messed Up– What Do I Do?

FIDM Graphic Design Alumna Sara Berkes answers questions about life as a professional creative freelancer.

Q: I messed up, but the client hasn’t noticed yet nor have they said anything. Should I just leave it? Should I tell them? What do I do?

A: When you’re just starting out as a freelancer, it’s scary to admit to your clients that you messed something up.

After all, you want to look like an expert. You want them to trust you. You don’t want to make mistakes. But you’re also human—and humans make mistakes.

The important thing is not necessarily being 100% mistake-free all the time (though of course, that would be nice), but it’s what you do when you realize your mistake. Do you pretend it never happened? Or do you fix it?

Though some would be inclined to the former—wait until the client says something, pretend you never saw it, apologize later if they do happen to bring it up—most clients would prefer it if you contact them and right the wrong as early as possible. Admitting your mistakes is difficult, but it shows your client that you care about your work, and that you care about them.

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So, how do you go about admitting you made a mistake as a professional?

Well, first thing’s first, you should fix the mistake if you can do so without asking anything from the client. That way when you contact them, you can explain that the problem has already been solved so they don’t have to delay anything on their end while waiting for you to fix it– nor do they have to worry about offering to pay you for the fix (as a general rule, if the mistake is your fault, you should fix it free of charge.)

Next, you should contact them. Send them an email, give them a call, send them a text– however you usually communicate with them. Explain that you’ve recently noticed an error on your part and wanted to let them know as soon as possible. Explain what the error was, apologize for having made it, and reassure them that you’ve already rectified the problem. Let them know how they can expect to receive updated files whether you attach it to an email, upload it or send via mail.

If your clients respect you and generally like you, they’ll appreciate that you took the initiative to let them know, and to fix the mistake without them having to ask. Contrary to what many new freelancers fear, owning up to your mistakes shows professionalism, along with making your clients’ lives easier for not having to contact you first. After all, when someone’s made a mistake that’s affected you, what have you preferred?

Remember: Everyone makes mistakes. It’s what you do when you realize you’ve made them that matters.

FIDM Digital Arts contributor Sara Berkes is a graduate of FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising’s Graphic Design program and a freelance graphic designer based in Canada. For more freelance advice and to see more samples of Sara’s work, visit her site at www.saraberkescreative.com and follow her newsletter here. If you have any questions about freelance graphic design, be sure to leave a comment below!

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Author: Sara Berkes

Sara Berkes is a graphic designer, writer and maker based in Ottawa, ON, Canada. She has a combined BA in English and Creative Writing from the University of King's College and an AA in Graphic Design, which she earned from FIDM in December 2013 along with the 2013 / 2014 Graphic Design Award. When not designing or blogging at Sara Berkes Creative or writing for the FIDM Digital Arts Blog, Sara can probably be found sewing, knitting, or hiding from Winter. You can find out more about her and her work at www.saraberkescreative.com

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